Navigating Texas worker’s comp can be fraught with difficulty. State laws confuse the process, and claims are frequently denied or underpaid. Employees may be better served by signing a worker’s comp waiver form. This document waives your right to coverage under your employer’s worker’s compensation policy but allows you to retain the right to sue if you’re injured on the job.
What are the worker’s compensation laws in Texas?
Texas is the only state in the U.S. that doesn’t require private employers to carry worker’s compensation insurance. Employers can choose to offer state-regulated worker’s compensation or private occupational insurance to employees or to do nothing at all. State plans frequently deny claims and benefits are notoriously difficult to receive. Private insurance often places limits on an injured worker’s benefits, legal rights, and health care options.
A 2014 investigative report by the Texas Tribune found the following:
- More than 500,000 Texans don’t have occupational benefits in the event they are injured at work.
- Texas led the nation in workplace fatalities.
- Only 41% of private worker’s comp plans in Texas include a death benefit.
One study by the Centers for Disease Control indicated that worker’s comp insurance pays for less than 50% of work-related injuries in Texas. Instead, they are covered by taxpayer dollars and charitable organizations. Some of these injuries are catastrophic in nature, requiring lifelong treatment and care.
Do I need to sign a worker’s comp waiver if my Texas employer offers benefits?
Worker’s compensation was designed to provide employers immunity from workplace negligence lawsuits. In exchange for agreeing to take care of employees injured on the job, the law protected employers from costly litigation and court judgments. Employers who opt out of state-regulated worker’s comp benefits are supposed to lose protections against potential lawsuits.
Texas Mexican Railway Company v. Bouchet, a 1998 Texas Supreme Court ruling, made it legal for employers who don’t subscribe to the state-regulated worker’s comp system to fire injured workers. Many employers include policies in fine print on documents that employees are required to sign as a condition of employment in the trucking, construction, and industrial sectors.
One way to protect yourself and your family from signing away your rights to seek damages or file a wrongful death suit is to sign a worker’s comp waiver.
What are the benefits of signing a worker’s comp waiver form in Texas?
Under Texas Labor Code 406.034, employees in Texas have five days after employment begins, or after they are made aware of worker’s comp employee coverage, to submit a written statement to their employer opting out. Doing so allows you to retain the right to sue your employer for work-related injuries or illnesses and to recover damages for:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Death benefits or funeral expenses
Signing a worker’s comp waiver is most beneficial for workers in high-risk occupations because they may stand to recover much more if they take their chances with a jury than they would if they try to navigate the Texas worker’s comp system.
What steps should I take before signing a Texas worker’s comp waiver form?
You should be aware that opting out of employer-provided worker’s comp in Texas allows an employer to fire you without cause. Before you make a decision, consult an experienced worker’s compensation attorney to weigh your options. The team at Morris and DeWett Injury Lawyers specializes in personal injury trial cases and can walk you through the process.
- Texas Department of Insurance https://www.tdi.texas.gov/pubs/consumer/cb030.html#:~:text=Do%20I%20have%20to%20have,employees%20working%20on%20the%20project.
- The Texas Tribune https://apps.texastribune.org/hurting-for-work/
- Centers for Disease Control https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/wk/mm5929.pdf
- Texas Labor Code 406.034 https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/LA/htm/LA.406.htm
- Cornell Law School https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/workers_compensation#:~:text=These%20laws%20also%20provide%20benefits,co%2Dworkers%20in%20most%20accidents.